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I work in the education industry, and regularly read reports and articles about education (I subscribe to Education Week). What Brill does really well is to provide the overall picture of what`s actually been happening on a policy level and how it connects to the classrooms, an overview that is impossible to put together from just following current events. He provides the background to the people and the events of the recent education reform movement that provides context not only for Race to the Top, but for the foundations that are very much having an impact on changes in education. For those who have criticized the focus on the wealthy donors, let`s not kid ourselves–money makes a difference in politics and without some external, well-funded push from the outside, nothing was going to change. The academics would have just argued back and forth and education fads would have swept through, fed on by the media, and the schools would still be in decline. This time, the changes are huge and I think they are here to stay. Dismissing them is to underestimate their impact at a time when it seems like most initiatives and research I read about seems to be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.There are some players in the education realm that Brill does not address and which I would have like to know about. For example, what about the influence of the education publishing industry and of the education associations? And what about the NEA? Also, so much of the focus is on urban districts which are the flashpoints for reform, but what about all those other non-urban schools that will be impacted?For me, this has been like reading a really long New York Times magazine piece, which is just fine with me. It`s engaging, and I think the structure of having short chapters allows Brill to cover a lot of ground while still maintaining coherence. I come away with a much better understanding of what has been happening over the last few years, right up through mid-2011, which will, in turn, make it easier for me to contextualize new information.
Steven Brill in Class Warfare: Inside the fight to Fix America`s Schools has accomplished the impossible; making education policy exciting and interesting. You don`t have to be a policy wonk to benefit by the closely written and thoroughly researched narrative that Brill presents here. The founder of Brill`s Content Magazine – if you remember that great effort – Brill presents the story of how Federal education policy has come to be. He tells the story in a very well researched and readable style. Any American interested in the current status of schools in the US will benefit from his narrative and the insights that readers will gain from it. This is not a teaching book or a classroom management book. It is sort of a contemporary history book. Readers will not fully agree with Brill`s conclusions, but he certainly makes tax payers think, think, think. If nothing else, a reading of Brill`s current volume will know something of the sausage grinder that produces education reform in this era.
Brill does a great job finding the root of the problem with public education. With story after story, he makes a compelling case that the teachers unions are hampering education progress–in some cases, actively resisting progress. The book has numerous eye-opening stories–it`s very well-researched. And it comes across as pretty balanced.My only complaints: he paints charter schools and a major solution to the problem. They might be part of the solution, but there are enough poor charter schools out there that I`m not sure I can buy into the idea that "all we need are more charter schools." Also, after all the horror stories about the unions, he backpedals mightily at the end, and effectively throws the unions a bone, implying that there must be a way for unions to exist in a more productive capacity–which was a little astounding because he had done such an incredible job of proving that the unions were the albatross around the neck of the public schools.So, a few inconsistencies but still, a very eye-opening and informative read.
Fantastic expose of the forces at work in America to keep it`s young people stupid. Only in America can reforming a broken K-12 education system be considered too radical.
With Betsy DeVoss as the Secretary of Education, I think everyone needs to remind themselves of how we got to where we are today…
A nice assortment of narratives and anecdotes reflecting education politics in the last few decades. Neutral and non-partisan – allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions while encouraging further exploration.
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